Stormont delays announcing new Spads for second week
STORMONT has delayed formally announcing the executive's new special advisers for a second week running.
The Department of Finance had pledged to release the details last week but pushed back the announcement.
It then said last Friday that it would "publish the names and salaries next week", but confirmed yesterday the announcement was being delayed again.
"That process is still ongoing so there's not going to be an announcement," a spokeswoman said, adding that she could no longer give a time frame.
"I haven't got a definitive time frame on that," the departmental official said.
Ministers' special advisers (Spads) have been a focus of increased concerns over their conduct and accountability in the wake of the RHI inquiry.
Stormont has pledged greater scrutiny of the influential roles, introducing a revised code of conduct and capping their salaries at a maximum of £85,000 per year.
While several Spads are already in post since devolution was restored, it is believed there has been difficulty in choosing candidates for some of the positions.
Asked why the announcement had been delayed for a second time, the finance department spokeswoman said: "I wouldn't be privy to the detail of that."
The DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly was inadvertently confirmed last week as a Spad to First Minister Arlene Foster after her name card was spotted during a meeting in Cardiff.
Ms Little-Pengelly, who in December lost her South Belfast MP seat to the SDLP's Claire Hanna, was previously a special adviser to Peter Robinson when he was First Minister.
Eight Spads can be appointed to the Executive Office (TEO) – four in the First Minister's side of the joint office and four in the Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill's side.
But amid calls to cut the number of Spads, it is understood there has been some discussion about the DUP and Sinn Féin possibly only appointing three each.
Among the other TEO Spads expected are Philip Weir for the DUP, while Sinn Féin is tipped to appoint party workers John Loughran and Stephen McGlade.
Tanya McCamphill, who has previously worked for the SNP, is expected to be SDLP infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon's Spad, while Alliance policy chief Claire Johnson is expected to formally take up the Spad role for party leader and justice minister Naomi Long.